Last night Shawn and I joined Cara on a tour of community gardens, which was fun! There was a handful of people on bicycles, and everyone else was on a chartered city bus, so it was a big group of people. And after that we went to a restaurant where all three of us ended up ordering the same (delicous) veggie burger and drinking beers on their outdoor patio. Ah, summer!
At one point during the garden tour I started chatting up a guy taking pictures, and it turns out he’s the official photographer for the Icelandic festival in Gimli! In addition, he’s descended from Icelanders who emigrated to Canada, and he was able to go back to Iceland and stand on the very farm some of his ancestors lived on. He was even able to find the foundation of one of the older houses. He said it was an amazing experience, and that many Icelanders would hear he was ethnically Icelandic and announce, “Ah, we’re related!” Which is probably true, honestly, seeing as the whole country is half the population of Winnipeg. You can see his photos here. He’s a professional photographer, so many of them are quite good.
Winnipeg in general has more bicycles than I was expecting, but even better, it has more than its fair share of mixte frame bicycles! Good lord! How did they all end up here? Also, Winnipeg is pretty much flat. Yeah, it’s really windy, and a headwind is jokingly referred to as a “Winnipeg hill.” But this is definitely a city that would work for single-speeds and coaster brakes. Gill, one of our hosts, rides a fixed gear, and he says that many fixie riders locally have ridiculously high gear ratios because of the flat landscape. “It’s hard to get going, but when you do, you just fly.”
Since today is the day Shawn and I leave Winnipeg, and we’ll be back in the States in a few days, I figured I’d take this opportunity to talk about a handful of the differences between Canada and the USA:
*They have potato chip flavors we don’t. Dill pickle, ketchup, and “all-dressed” flavors are common sights. All-dressed is the most confusing, as nobody can seem to tell me what it actually means. The Lays brand all-dressed chips have a picture of a tomato, and onion, and a vinegar bottle. They taste like BBQ flavor except less spicy and more vinegar-y. The pickle chips are pretty good, we’re thinking of writing Kettle Chips in Oregon to see if they’d try making them!
*Their debit cards work differently. My debit card in the states says “debit” on it but then has the VISA logo, which confuses people sometimes. We have to make sure our cards are run as credit or they don’t work.
*They do not say “eh” nearly as often as stereotypes would lead you to believe. Although I must note that in Saskatoon it was more “hey” then “eh,” (e.g. “This bike path is pretty awesome, hey?”) and that many Canadians do have a discernible accent to American ears.
*There’s French on everything.
*MEC’s in-house stuff is often cheaper and better than that at REI’s.
*Tom’s of Maine toothpaste is still in aluminum tubes! (Since being bought out by Colgate, they’re in plastic tubes in the USA.)
*Unexpected things are more expensive. Despite the stereotype that Canadians drink a lot, beer is super expensive. Canned beans and dry cereal are really pricey as well. In general, though, the weak dollar has hurt us.
*CBC radio is pretty good.
*Many more things are named after British people and places. Although certainly the east coast of the USA, in the original colonies, has its share of British place names. I mean, once upon a time when I was a kid I lived in Virginia (named after a “virgin” queen) in a city formerly known as Princess Anne County. But in general, Canadians are more aware of what goes on in the UK and keeps a closer eye on the royal family, and a lot of middle-of-nowhere land is Crown lands, and therefore still (technically) owned by the Queen.
I have gained a fairly good grasp of kilometers vs. miles and Celsius vs. Fahrenheit. Kilometers to miles: move the decimal point over once to the left, multiply times six. So twenty kilometers is twelve miles. The other method is to divide by five and multiply times three, so thirty five kilometers is twenty-one miles. It’s approximate but it’s good enough for cycling. In terms of temperatures: 10C is fairly cold but not that cold, 15 to 25 is about perfect for cycling, anything above 30C is hot.
As a side note, the day we arrived in Winnipeg, a well-loved politician (how’s that for an oxymoron) died of cancer. John Layton was a cyclist, a Trekkie, had charisma in spades, and was respected even by people who disagreed with him. Reading stuff about him online reminded me of how little I know about Canadian politics. It’s embarrassing, because I’ve met several Canadians who were required to memorize all the American states and their capitols in school, and it wasn’t until recently that I even could place most of the Canadian provinces on a map. Hell, I don’t think I ever had to memorize all the capitols of the American states. What I know of them I learned from a Carmen Sandiego video game. (Anyone remember that? Or the TV show?) I have met Canadians who know more about American politics than I do. Eep.
Did you know that Shawn and I have a “new” Indiegogo page where you can donate to our trip? It has a whopping ten days left on it! There’s cool stuff you can get depending on how much you donate.
And not to sound desperate, but we could use the cash. Canada has been more expensive than we expected. We’re not huge spenders these days, but a campsite can be $20, food in the middle of nowhere is sometimes twice as expensive (and we have to eat a lot) and we (very) occasionally do get a beer to share. Add in needed bicycle repairs here and there (my new chain last week, a new tire the week before that) and various incidentals and it adds up.
We’re not a charity and nobody should feel obligated to give us anything. If you can’t or don’t want to, that’s totally fine! But if you like reading my goofy stories about our travels and feel moved to donate a few dollars, we’d really appreciate it.
And a big THANK YOU to people who’ve already donated.